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READING INTERNATIONAL, INC.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2021
The information in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 ("2021 Form 10-K" or “2021 Annual Report”) contains certain forward-looking statements, including statements related to trends in the Company's business. The Company's actual results may differ materially from the results discussed in the “Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements”. Factors that might cause such a difference include those discussed in "Item 1 – Our Business," "Item 1A – Risk Factors," and "Item 7 – Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" as well as those discussed elsewhere in this 2021 Form 10-K.
Item 1 – Our Business
Reading International, Inc. (“RDI” and collectively with our consolidated subsidiaries and corporate predecessors, our “Company,” “Reading,” “we,” “us,” or “our”) was incorporated in 1999 incident to our reincorporation in the State of Nevada. Our class A non-voting common stock (“Class A Stock”) and class B voting common stock (“Class B Stock”) are listed for trading on the NASDAQ Capital Market (Nasdaq-CM) under the symbols RDI and RDIB, respectively. Our Corporate Headquarters is at 189 Second Avenue, Suite 2S, New York, New York, 10003.
Our corporate website address is www.ReadingRDI.com. We provide, free of charge on our website, our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Sections 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we have electronically filed such material with, or furnished it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) (www.sec.gov). The contents of our Company website are not incorporated into this report. Our corporate governance charters for our Audit and Conflicts Committee and Compensation and Stock Options Committee are available on our website.
Synergistic Diversification and Branding
We are an internationally diversified company focused on the development, ownership and operation of entertainment and real property assets in three jurisdictions: (i) United States (“U.S.”), (ii) Australia, and (iii) New Zealand. We group our businesses in two operating segments, which are owned and operated through various operating subsidiaries:
Theatrical Motion Picture Exhibition (“Cinema Exhibition”), through our 63 cinemas.
Real Estate, including real estate development and the rental or licensing of retail, commercial and live theatre assets comprised, as of the date of this 2021 Annual Report, of approximately 9,730,000 square feet of land and approximately 713,000 square feet of net rentable area.
COVID-19 Impact and Company Response
COVID-19 Impact on our Cinema Business
In March 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our cinemas in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand were forced to temporarily close by government mandate, ultimately causing an immediate halt to our cinema income. Since the onset of the pandemic, a majority of our cinemas have reopened (some with occupancy restrictions in place). As of the date of this 2021 Annual Report, all our cinemas are open other than one cinema in the U.S. and one cinema in New Zealand which remain closed due to reasons unrelated to the pandemic.
These pandemic related closures have had a material negative impact on our box office results, cinema attendances and the wider cinema industry in general. In 2021, cinemas have reopened as the pandemic has abated and recent variants have not required widespread cinema closures, but attendance is still below pre-pandemic levels due to a variety of factors, including continuing social distancing requirements, public reticence to participate in group activities, competition from streaming services and until relatively recently, the lack of strong film product. Patrons who have returned are responding well to our expanded food and beverage offerings, as spend per patron continue to strengthen. The industry has, in recent months, experienced a positive shift in box office results with the releases of more traditional blockbuster movies to cinemas, such as Spider-Man: No Way Home, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals. We believe that the performance of these films has provided optimism for the cinema industry.
Notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19, we have expanded our global cinema portfolio. We (i) opened five new cinemas in Australia since the third quarter of 2019, (ii) completed two top-to-bottom renovations in the U.S in 2021, and (iii) have two more cinemas in the pipeline to open in 2022.
COVID-19 Impact on our Real Estate Business
Our real estate business has been less impacted, and virtually all of our tenants are currently paying full rents. As of the date of this 2021 Annual Report, 97% of our tenants in our Australian and New Zealand real estate businesses are currently open for trading (some with trading restrictions in place). STOMP reopened at our Orpheum Theater in New York on July 20, 2021, and Audible, an Amazon company, continues to license our Minetta Lane Theater in New York, and resumed public performances on October 8, 2021. We began receiving rental income from our new Culver City office tenant in October 2020.
With regard to our architectural award winning 44 Union Square redevelopment project, while COVID-19 has severely constrained leasing activity in Manhattan, in January 2022 we secured a long-term lease with a strong credit retailer for the cellar, ground floor, and second floor of the building. Our real estate team continues to work to secure office tenants for the remaining space. Our progress regarding this property is discussed in our Real Estate overview below.
As for our other real estate holdings, subject to capital availability and assuming a return to normalcy, we will once again put emphasis on developing and enhancing the following properties: our Courtenay Central, Cannon Park, and Newmarket Village Entertainment Themed Centers, and our Cinemas 1,2,3 and Philadelphia Viaduct properties.
Management’s Response to the Challenges of COVID-19
In response to lower cash inflows from our cinema businesses, we reviewed our real estate portfolio to identify assets that had not been adversely impacted by the pandemic and which would require material capital investment to generate any material increase in value. These asset monetizations are detailed at Note 5 - Real Estate Transactions to the financial statements. We have used the proceeds from the sale of these properties to pay down debt, to cover operating expenses, to fund limited capital improvements, and to strengthen our liquidity. At December 31, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents totaling $83.3 million, compared to $26.8 million at December 31, 2020. During 2021, we have reduced our net debt from $285.0 million as of December 31, 2020, to $236.9 million as of December 31, 2021.
In addition to the monetization of certain real estate assets, we implemented a number of measures to reduce our day-to-day cost of operations while improving the safety of our cinemas in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include, but are not limited to, terminating U.S. cinema and live theater staff for the period of cinema closures, reducing our utilities and essential operating expenditures to the minimum levels necessary, terminating or deferring non-essential capital expenditure, and reducing corporate-level employment costs. We have enhanced our cleaning protocols and installed partitions and air filtration systems to improve the safety aspects of our cinemas and upgraded our mobile platforms to increase social distancing. Furthermore, we were able to keep our Australia and New Zealand cinema level staff due to government assistance provided in those countries.
We have been able to maintain most of our assets and keep our key personnel in place as we reopen our cinemas. Generally speaking, our lenders and landlords continue to work with us, and we continue in occupancy all of our cinemas and have not lost any cinema assets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We negotiated rent abatements and/or deferrals with our landlords throughout 2020 and 2021, and we continue to discuss further concessions with our landlords. We have a variety of landlords, and these discussions are being progressed on a location-by-location basis. Further, we believe our relationships with our film suppliers continue to be strong.
In 2021, we have taken a number of significant steps to preserve our liquidity, and we will continue to evaluate our operations as the pandemic continues. We modified our business strategy in order to ensure our long-term viability in a way that would not have a dilutive impact on our stockholders, overleverage our Company, or require that we fire sale assets. In arriving at the determination to rely upon the monetization of certain real estate assets to bridge this gap in cinema cashflow (which has in 2021 produced net proceeds to our Company of $139.4 million) and to reduce our need to make capital expenditures, we considered a variety of alternatives, including the issuance of additional common stock and the issuance of high interest rate “junk” debt. We determined that it would be in the best interests of our Company and our stockholders to not dilute equity by issuing stock in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic and to not mortgage our future with high interest rate debt.
With the development and distribution of a variety of vaccines, and a government focus on reducing or eliminating certain pandemic-related restrictions, we anticipate that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our results of operation will be a passing event in the long-term, and we believe that we will ultimately return to results that resemble those of the pre-pandemic era in the future. However, no assurance can be given that we will achieve these results and, unfortunately, there is still a risk of future global outbreaks of COVID-19 and its associated variants, such as the Delta and Omicron variants. In addition, we may be adversely impacted by long-term social trends and movie release patterns, which are placing greater emphasis on streaming in periods prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In short, we have preserved our core business and, while we have monetized on favorable terms certain real estate assets earlier than we had intended, we still hold quality real estate assets in which to invest our time and resources.
OUR COMMERCIAL BRANDS
Set forth below is a brief description of the various brands under which we organize our business operations:
Business Segment / Unit
Our Commercial Brands
Cinema Exhibition / All Countries
United States Australia
Our Reading Cinemas tradename is derived from our over 185-year history as the “Reading Railroad” featured on the Monopoly® game board. Under this brand, we deliver beyond-the-home entertainment (principally mainstream movies and alternative content and food and beverage) across our three operating jurisdictions. All our cinemas are equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art digital screens, 33 Reading Cinemas feature at least one TITAN LUXE, TITAN XC or IMAX premium auditorium, and 178 of our Reading Cinemas screens feature luxury recliner seating as of December 31, 2021.
Reading Cinemas US
Reading Cinemas AU
Reading Cinemas NZ
In 2021, our Consolidated Theatres celebrated 104 years of providing cinematic entertainment in the state of Hawaii. We are the oldest and largest circuit in Hawaii with nine cinemas on the islands of Oahu and Maui. In 2019, we completed the “Top-To-Bottom” renovation of our Consolidated Theatre in Mililani on Oahu, now featuring 14-screens with recliner seating and a TITAN LUXE screen, a full F&B upgrade, including the sale of beer, wine & spirits, and a lobby re-design.
Our Consolidated Theatre at the Kahala Mall underwent a “Top-to-Bottom” renovation and reopened on November 5, 2021, with recliner seating throughout along with a state-of-the-art kitchen and an elevated F&B menu.
Our Consolidated Theatre at Kapolei commenced renovation during the second quarter of 2021 and reopened March 3, 2022, with recliner seating in half of the auditoriums and an elevated F&B menu.
Several of our cinemas are arthouses or specialty theaters operating under our Angelika brand. These cinemas feature specialty films, such as independent films, international films, and documentaries.
Since its opening in 1989, our New York City Angelika Film Center has been and consistently continues to be one of the most popular and influential arthouse cinemas in the U.S., featuring principally independent and foreign films. To date, we have expanded our Angelika Film Center Group to include nine other Angelika Film Centers: two in Dallas, TX, two in the Washington DC area, three in New York, NY, one in Sacramenta, CA and one in San Diego, CA. Each of our Angelika Film Centers also offers a curated food and beverage experience.
In early 2021, we announced that our Cinemas 1,2,3, Village East and Tower Theatre cinemas would be operated as Angelika brand cinemas: (i) the Cinemas 1,2,3 by Angelika, (ii) the Village East by Angelika and (iii) the Tower Theatre by Angelika.
In December 2019, we acquired the iconic 100-year-old State Cinema in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, which has been ranked the fifth highest grossing arthouse in Australia for the last decade. The cinema, which features 10 screens, a rooftop cinema and bar, a large café and an independent bookstore, is and has been a major cultural destination in North Hobart for decades. In early 2021, the cinema was also rebranded as State Cinema by Angelika.
The State Cinema Bar which serves a range of wines and spirits was rebranded the Angelika Bar in 2020.
We continue to look to expand our specialty theater portfolio by looking for more specialty theater sites in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.
Angelika Film Center
Business Segment / Unit
Our Commercial Brands
Launched in December 2020, Angelika Anywhere, is an art focused streaming platform available in the U.S. and more recently, in Australia. We created Angelika Anywhere to allow us to expand the reach of our “Angelika” based cinema experience beyond the four walls of a conventional brick-and-mortar cinema. Our goal is to offer cinephiles easy and curated access to the type of product that has made our Angelika Film Center the most recognized, dedicated arthouse in North America.
Real Estate / Leasing
Historically known as Tammany Hall, this approximately 73,000 square foot building overlooking Manhattan’s Union Square, has now signed its first tenant who will occupy most of the ground floor, the cellar and the second floor. Hailed as a dramatic pièce de résistance with its first in the city, over 800-piece, glass dome, this building brings the future to New York’s fabled past. In 2021, the building was selected for the following awards: (i) Design Award of Honor in the Renovation, Restoration and Adaptive Re-use category by the Society of American Registered Architects, (ii) 1st Place Addition Award by Retrofit Magazine, (iii) the Architecture + Collaboration Popular Choice Winner by the Architizer A+ Awards and (iv) the Architecture + Collaboration Jury Winner by the Architizer A+ Awards.
44 Union Square is one of a very limited number of locations in Manhattan that will provide major office tenant(s) with a “brandable” site, and the only such location on Union Square.
44 Union Square
Located on 203,000 square feet of land in suburban Brisbane, Newmarket Village is currently comprised of approximately 102,000 square feet of net rentable area, including a Coles Supermarket and 43 other third-party tenants, offering community level F&B, retail, and professional services.
At the end of 2017, we completed a major expansion that added a new eight-screen Reading Cinemas with TITAN LUXE, an additional 10,000 square feet of restaurant tenant space and 124 parking spaces.
Adjacent to our Newmarket Village, we own a three-level, 22,000 square foot office building. Taken together with the retail components, the center is 92% leased as of December 31, 2021.
Anchored by our six-screen Reading Cinemas, and 13 other third party tenants offering F&B or other retail offers, Cannon Park is located in Townsville, Australia, and is currently comprised of 408,000 square feet of land and 105,000 square feet of net rentable area.
As of December 31, 2021, this property was 87% leased.
Cannon Park Townsville
Anchored by our 10-screen Reading Cinemas and five F&B or third-party tenants, The Belmont Common is located in Perth, Australia, and is currently comprised of 103,000 square feet of land and 15,000 square feet of net rentable area.
As of December 31, 2021, the lease occupancy rate for this property was 94%.
The Belmont Common
Business Segment / Unit
Our Commercial Brands
Located in the heart of Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city – this center is comprised, on a consolidated basis through various subsidiaries, of 161,000 square feet of land, including two parking lot parcels totaling 84,184 square feet. Courtenay Central is situated proximate to the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (attracting over 1.5 million visitors annually, pre-COVID), across the street from the site of the new convention center being constructed to handle the demand for such space in Wellington (estimated to open its doors in 2023) and at a major public transit hub. Damage from the 2016 earthquake necessitated demolition of our nine-story parking garage at the site. In January 2019, unrelated seismic issues caused us to close major portions of the existing cinema and retail structure while we reevaluate the center for future redevelopment as an entertainment themed urban center with potentially a major food and grocery component.
Wellington continues to be rated as one of the top cities in the world in which to live, and we continue to believe that our assets in Wellington are located in one of the most vibrant areas of New Zealand.
We operate two off-Broadway live theatres in Manhattan under the Liberty Theatres tradename. In 2018, we entered a license with Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon, pursuant to which our Minetta Lane Theatre serves as Audible’s live theatre home in New York City.
We synergistically bring together cinema-based entertainment and real estate and believe that these two business segments complement one another, as our cinemas have historically provided the steady cash flows that allow us to be opportunistic in acquiring and holding long-term real estate assets (including non-income producing land) and support our real estate development activities. Our real estate allows us to develop an asset base that we believe will stand the test of time and one that can provide financial leverage and, if needed, during times such as the current pandemic, a funding source to reduce dependence on debt and meet operating costs. More specifically, the combination of these two segments provides a variety of business advantages including the following:
Diversification of our Risk Profile and Enhanced Flexibility in meeting our Cash Needs. We believe that our real estate base provides us with the flexibility to raise additional liquidity through one, or a combination of mortgage-based borrowing, sale and leaseback transactions and/or sale. Real-estate backed loans typically allow higher leverage of cash flows than operating loans secured by cinema assets, and the underlying assets themselves provide us a more ready source of liquidity through sale than traditional cinema assets. Strategic asset monetization has formed a key part of our COVID-19 response strategy.
Reduced Pressure to Deliver Cinema Business Growth; to Grow for Growth’s Sake. Pure cinema operators can encounter financial difficulty as demands upon them to produce cinema-based earnings growth tempt them into reinvesting their cash flow into increasingly marginal cinema sites, overpaying for existing cinemas or entering into high-rent leases. While we believe that attractive opportunities to acquire cinema assets and/or to develop high-end specialty type theaters in the future will continue to exist, we do not feel pressure to build or acquire cinemas for the sake of adding units or building gross cinema revenues. This strategy has, over the years, allowed us to acquire cinemas at multiples of trailing theater cash flow below those paid by third parties. We intend to focus our use of cash flow on our real estate development and operating activities, to the extent that attractive cinema opportunities are not available to us or that such funds are not needed for reinvestment to maintain our cinemas in a competitive position. In 2021, we invested approximately $9.6 million in the upgrading and repositioning of our historic cinema assets or adding new cinemas, and approximately $4.2 million in the acquisition or development of our non-cinema real estate assets. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business has postponed or reprioritized most of our capital expenditures based on assessments of conditions and liquidity requirements.
Enhanced Control over our own Destiny. Some exhibitors are finding their cinemas stranded in dead or dying centers. In our entertainment-themed centers, or “ETCs”, we are better able as exhibitors to control this risk and, as landlords, to realize the benefits of the synergies between entertainment and retail. In our ETCs, we have focused on creating and developing a mix of lifestyle tenancies that, we believe, are less vulnerable to the “Amazon Effect” being felt by traditional centers and that benefit from the foot traffic generated by our cinemas.
The Certainty of Cinema Anchor Tenancies. Cinemas can be used as anchors for larger retail developments such as our ETCs, and our involvement in the cinema business can give us an advantage over other real estate developers or redevelopers who must identify and negotiate with third-party anchor tenants. We have used cinemas to create our own tenant-anchors at our four ETCs.
Flexibility in Property Use. We are always open to the idea of converting an entertainment property to another use, if there is a higher and better use for the property, or to sell individual assets if an attractive opportunity presents itself. Our 44 Union Square property, which is in the lease-up phase of its redevelopment was initially acquired as an entertainment property.
Our hybrid, multi-country strategy emphasizes diversification, and the building of long-term hard asset values. We believe that this business strategy is proving its worth as we have progressed through and are emerging from the current pandemic.
At December 31, 2021, our principal tangible assets included:
interests in 63 cinemas comprising of 515 screens;
fee interests in two live theatres (the Orpheum and Minetta Lane both in Manhattan);
fee interest in our 44 Union Square property, previously used by us as a live theatre venue and for rental to third parties, is in the lease-up phase of its redevelopment for retail and office uses, of which the lower level, ground floor, and second floor of the building is now fully leased to a national retailer;
fee interest in one cinema (the Cinemas 1,2,3) in Manhattan, in which we own a 75% managing member interest in the holding limited liability company;
fee interests in two cinemas in Australia (Bundaberg and Maitland) and three cinemas in New Zealand (Dunedin, Napier and Rotorua);
fee interest in our ETCs in Brisbane (Newmarket Village), Townsville (Cannon Park), Perth (The Belmont Common) and Wellington (Courtenay Central), each of which includes a Reading Cinemas;
fee interest in our administrative office buildings in Culver City, California and Melbourne, Australia. Both buildings also feature one other third-party tenant;
in addition to the fee interests described immediately above, fee ownership of approximately 8.9 million square feet of developed and undeveloped real estate in the United States, Australia and New Zealand; and
cash and cash equivalents, aggregating $83.3 million.
We now present an overview of our business segments.
We are dedicated to creating engaging cinema experiences for our guests through hospitality-styled comfort and service, state-of-the-art cinematic presentation, uniquely designed venues, curated film and event programming, and crafted food and beverage options. As discussed previously, we manage our worldwide cinema exhibition business under various brands.
Shown in the following table are the number of locations and screens in our theater circuit in each country, by state/territory/region, our cinema brands, and our interest in the underlying asset as of December 31, 2021:
State / Territory /
Interest in Asset
Reading Cinemas, Angelika Film Center
Angelika Film Center
Angelika Film Center
Angelika Film Center
Angelika Film Center
New South Wales
Reading Cinemas, Event Cinemas(1)
Reading Cinemas, State Cinema
Reading Cinemas, Rialto Cinemas(2)
Reading Cinemas, Rialto Cinemas(2)
Bay of Plenty
New Zealand Total
(1)Our Company has a 33.3% unincorporated joint venture interest in a 16-screen cinema located in Mt. Gravatt, Queensland managed by Event Cinemas.
(2)Our Company is a 50% joint venture partner in two New Zealand Rialto cinemas totaling 13 screens. We are responsible for the booking of these cinemas and our joint venture partner, Event Cinemas, manages their day-to-day operations.
We continue to focus on upgrading our existing cinemas and developing new cinema opportunities to provide our customers with premium offerings, including luxury recliner seating, state-of-the-art presentation including sound, lounges, cafés and bar service, and other amenities. Currently, 178 of our auditoriums feature recliner seating (excluding our joint ventures). In addition, 33 of our auditoriums now feature large format TITAN XC, TITAN LUXE, or IMAX screens. Our circuit has been completely converted to digital projection and sound systems. However, in certain of our cinemas we have, as a point of differentiation, retained the ability to show film in the 70MM format preferred by some directors.
Although we operate cinemas in three nations, the general nature of our operations and operating strategies does not vary materially from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction. In each jurisdiction, our gross receipts are primarily from box office receipts, food and beverage sales, gift card purchases, online ticketing fees, and screen advertising. Our ancillary revenue is created principally from theater rentals (for example, for film festivals and special events), and ancillary programming (such as concerts and sporting events).
Our cinemas generated approximately 58% of their 2021 revenue from box office receipts. Ticket prices vary by location, and in selected locations we offer reduced rates for senior citizens, children and, in certain markets, military and students.
Showtimes and features are placed in advertisements on our various websites, on internet sites and, in some markets, in limited instances, local newspapers. We are continually increasing our presence in social media, thereby, reducing our dependency on print advertising. Film distributors may also advertise certain feature films in various print, radio and television media, as well as on the internet, and distributors generally pay those costs.
F&B sales accounted for approximately 33% of our total 2021 cinema revenue. Although certain cinemas have licenses for the sale and on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages, historically F&B products have been primarily popcorn, candy, and soda. This is changing, as more of our theaters are offering expanded food and beverage offerings. One of our strategic focuses is to upgrade our
existing cinemas with expanded F&B offerings consistent with what we believe to be the new position of cinemas in the pathway from content provider to consumer.
Screen advertising and other revenue contribute approximately 8% of our total 2021 cinema revenue. With the exception of certain rights that we have retained to sell to local advertisers, generally speaking, we are not in the screen advertising business and nationally recognized screen-advertising companies’ contract with us for the right to show such advertising on our screens.
Management of Cinemas
With the exception of our three unconsolidated cinemas, we manage our cinemas with executives located in Los Angeles and Manhattan in the U.S., Melbourne, Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand. Our two New Zealand Rialto cinemas are owned by a joint venture in which Reading New Zealand is a 50% joint venture partner. While we assist in the booking of these two cinemas, our joint venture partner, Event Cinemas, manages their day-to-day operations. Our one-third interest in a 16-screen Brisbane cinema is passive in nature. That cinema is being managed by Event Cinemas.
Licensing and Pricing
Film product is available from a variety of sources, ranging from the major film distributors, such as Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Lionsgate, to a variety of smaller independent film distributors. In Australia and New Zealand, some of those major distributors distribute through local unaffiliated distributors. Worldwide, the major film distributors dominate the market for mainstream conventional films. In the U.S., art and specialty film is distributed through the art and specialty divisions of these major distributors, such as Searchlight Pictures and Sony Pictures Classics, and through independent distributors such as A24 and Neon. Film payment terms are generally based on an agreed-upon percentage of box office receipts that will vary from film-to-film.
Film is allocated by the applicable distributor among competitive cinemas and in an increasingly material number of situations to streaming services. Accordingly, from time to time, we may be unable to license every film that we desire to play. In the Australian and New Zealand markets, we generally have access to all film product in the market. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in streaming services with greater quantity and quality of films offered. We have also seen certain major distributors skip the traditional theatrical window and go straight to streaming, PVOD or Video on Demand (“VOD”). Furthermore, we have also seen the shortening of theatrical windows as part of the increase in streaming service. For example, in July 2020, AMC announced partnering with Universal to shorten the theatrical window with new movies going to PVOD within three weeks of their debut instead of the typical 75 to 90-day window. In November 2020, Cinemark announced the same. Given the concentration of viewing, and the increasing amount of product being released, the impact of these shortened windows on our revenues is uncertain.
Competition for films may be intense, depending upon the number of cinemas in a particular competitive market. Our ability to obtain top grossing, first run feature films may be adversely impacted by our comparatively small size, and the limited number of screens and markets that we can supply to distributors. Moreover, because of the dramatic consolidation of screens into the hands of a few very large and powerful exhibitors such as AMC, Cineworld, and Cinemark, who between them control over 57% of the North American market, these mega-exhibition companies are in a position to offer distributors access to many more screens in major markets than we can. Also, the major exhibitors have a significant number of markets where they operate without material competition, meaning that the distributors have no alternative exhibitor for their films in these markets. Accordingly, distributors may decide to give preference to these mega-exhibitors when it comes to licensing top-grossing films, rather than deal with independent exhibitors such as ourselves. The situation is different in Australia and New Zealand, where typically every major multiplex cinema has access to all of the film currently in distribution, regardless of the ownership of that multiplex cinema. However, on the reverse side, we have suffered somewhat in these markets from competition from boutique operators, who are able to book top grossing commercial films for limited runs, thus increasing competition for customers wishing to view such top grossing films. We believe it is likely that the power of these major circuits will increase vis-à-vis smaller independent and regional operators with the termination of the so called “Paramount Decree” by the United States District Court at the request of the Department of Justice on August 7, 2020. The order provides for a two-year sunset period on the Paramount Decree’s provisions banning block booking and circuit dealing.
The availability of state-of-the-art technology and/or luxury recliner seating can also be a factor in the preference of one cinema over another. In recent periods, a number of cinemas have opened or reopened featuring luxury recliner seating and/or expanded food and beverage service, including the sale of alcoholic beverages and food served to the seat. Over the last seven years, we have invested in certain cinemas by converting to luxury recliner seating and adding alcoholic beverages to our menus. We are currently working to upgrade the seating and food and beverage offerings (including the offering of alcoholic beverages) at additional existing cinemas. We now offer alcoholic beverages at over half of our worldwide cinemas.
The film exhibition markets in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are to a certain extent dominated by a limited number of major exhibition companies who have substantial financial resources which could allow them to operate in a more competitive manner
than us. Based on information contained in filings made with the SEC, as of December 31, 2021, the principal exhibitors in the United States are AMC (with 7,796 screens in 597 cinemas); Regal (with 6,885 screens in 514 cinemas), owned by Cineworld Group, the U.K.’s largest cinema operator; and Cinemark (with 4,440 screens in 324 cinemas). As of December 31, 2021, we were the 14th largest exhibitor with 1% of the box office in the United States with 238 screens in 24 cinemas.
The principal exhibitors in Australia are Greater Union, which does business under the Event Cinemas name (a subsidiary of Event Hospitality and Entertainment, Limited) (“Event”), Hoyts Cinemas (“Hoyts”), and Village Cinemas (“Village”). The major exhibitors control approximately 63% of the total cinema box office: Event 29%, Hoyts 22%, and Village 12%. Event has 530 screens nationally, Hoyts 397 screens, and Village 230 screens. By comparison, our 191 screens (excluding our joint venture theaters) represent approximately 8% of the total box office making us the fourth largest exhibitor in Australia. The industry is somewhat vertically integrated in Australia and New Zealand, in that Roadshow Film Distributors, a subsidiary of Village, serves as a distributor of film in Australia and New Zealand.
The principal exhibitors in New Zealand are Event Cinemas with 127 screens and Hoyts with 76 screens, nationally. The major exhibitors in New Zealand control approximately 51% of the total box office: Event 31% and Hoyts 20%. We have 57 screens (excluding its interests in unconsolidated joint ventures). We have 11% of the market (Event and Reading market share figures exclude any partnership theaters) and we are the third largest exhibitor in New Zealand.
In-Home, Streaming and Mobile Device Competition
The in-home streaming and mobile device entertainment industry has experienced significant leaps in recent periods in both the quality and affordability of in-home and mobile device entertainment systems and in the accessibility to, and quality of, entertainment programming through cable, satellite, and internet distribution channels. The success of these alternative distribution channels (like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video) and the entrance of new specially curated product for the home and streaming markets are competing with films produced for theatrical release which puts additional pressure on film distributors to reduce and/or eliminate the time period between theatrical and secondary release dates. For instance, in 2021 WarnerMedia announced that it would stream its entire 2021 slate of Warner Bros. movies on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters.
The myriad of streaming services continues to grow. In 2019, two streaming services debuted, Apple TV+ and Disney+. In 2020, HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock launched. In December 2020 and December 2021, we launched our very own streaming service in the U.S. and Australia, respectively, Angelika Anywhere, which is created for film lovers of independent and foreign film, documentaries, and the more specialized movies from the major studios. We are considering expanding this streaming service to New Zealand in 2023. In January 2021, Discovery+ launched and ViacomCBS launched Paramount+ in early March 2021.
We are responding to these challenges generally by increasing the comfort and service levels available at our cinemas, by offering convenient online ticket reservation services with guaranteed seating, by investing in larger screens and enhanced sound, by offering more specialized and alternative product to our audiences, and by providing value for the moviegoer’s dollar. We are focusing on the fact that going to the movies is a special social experience, and we are working to make that experience the best that it can be. We must differentiate ourselves from other forms of video entertainment by emphasizing the special nature of seeing film and alternative content in a cinema environment and by developing ways to position ourselves to take advantage of the increased output of film and feature product. These are issues common to both our U.S. and international cinema operations.
Further competitive issues are discussed under Item 1A – Risk Factors.
Major films are generally released to coincide with holidays. This fact provides some balancing of our revenue because, with the exception of Christmas and New Years, there is no material overlap between holidays in the United States and those in Australia and New Zealand. Distributors will delay, in certain cases, releases in Australia and New Zealand to take advantage of Australian and New Zealand holidays that are not celebrated in the United States. However, the deferral of releases is becoming increasingly less common, given the need to address internet and other channels of distribution that operate on a worldwide basis and are less tied to holiday schedules.
We engage in the real estate business through the development and our ownership and rental or licensing to third parties of retail, commercial and live theatre assets. We own the fee interests in both our live theatres, and in 10 of our cinemas (as presented in the preceding table within the “Cinema Exhibition” section). Our real estate business creates long-term value for our stockholders through the continuous improvement and development of our investment and operating properties, including our ETCs.
Our real estate activities have historically consisted principally of:
the ownership of fee or long-term leasehold interests in properties used in our cinema exhibition activities or which were acquired for the development of cinemas or cinema-based real estate development projects;
the acquisition of fee interests in land for general real estate development;
the licensing to production companies of our live theatres; and,
the redevelopment of our existing fee-owned cinema or live theatre sites to their highest and best use.
All of our leasehold interests are cinema operating properties. We utilize office space at the Village East cinema building for our corporate headquarters.
We have historically made use of third-party agencies to provide the on-site management and leasing administration functions of our Australia and New Zealand sites. In 2020, however, we terminated these arrangements and brought these activities in-house. All of our U.S. real estate operations are managed in-house, with operational support from a third-party for 44 Union Square.
In addition to our principal properties as set out below, we own certain historic railroad properties (such as our 8.2-acre North Viaduct and adjacent commercial properties in Philadelphia).
Live Theatres – Minetta Lane and Orpheum
Included among our real estate holdings are two Off-Broadway style live theatres, operated through our Liberty Theatres subsidiary. We license theatre auditoriums to the producers of Off-Broadway theatrical productions and provide various box office and food & beverage services. The terms of our licenses are, naturally, principally dependent upon the commercial success of our tenants. While we attempt to choose productions that we believe will be successful, we have no control over the production itself. At the current time, we have two single-auditorium theatres in Manhattan:
the Minetta Lane (399 seats); and
the Orpheum (347 seats).
Liberty Theatres is primarily in the business of licensing theatre space. However, we may from time to time participate as an investor in a play, which can help facilitate the exhibition of the play at one of our theatres and do from time to time rent space on a basis that allows us to share in a production’s revenues or profits. Rental revenues, expenses, and profits are reported as part of the real estate segment of our business.
44 Union Square
At the end of 2019, we substantially completed the construction phase of our 44 Union Square redevelopment project, achieving approximately 73,000 square feet of net rentable area (calculated inclusive of anticipated BOMA adjustments) comprised of retail and office space. We have leased all the retail space to a national retailer for a flagship, state-of-the-art facility. We are currently working with CBRE to lease the office portions of the project. 44 Union Square/Tammany Hall, hailed as a dramatic pièce de résistance with its first in the city, over 800-piece, glass dome, brings the future to New York’s fabled past and in 2021 was awarded the (i) Design Award of Honor in the Renovation, Restoration and Adaptive Re-use category by the Society of American Registered Architects, (ii) 1st Place Addition Award by Retrofit Magazine, (iii) the Architecture + Collaboration Popular Choice Winner by the Architizer A+ Awards and (iv) the Architecture + Collaboration Jury Winner by the Architizer A+ Awards.
We believe 44 Union Square is attractive to potential office tenants interested in both (i) operating in New York City and (ii) seeking to have greater control over the size and design of their spaces in a post-COVID-19 environment. It is one of a very limited number of “brandable” sites available for lease in New York City and can be delivered immediately upon the execution of leases. Gallery and video images can be viewed at www.44unionsquare.com. An update on this project is provided in Item 7 – Recent Developments.
5995 Sepulveda Boulevard
We own an approximately 24,000 square foot office building with 72 parking spaces located at 5995 Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City, California. We occupy approximately 12,500 square feet of our Culver City office building for administrative purposes. The remainder of the building is leased to an unrelated third-party. An update on this property is provided in Item 7 – Recent Developments.
We own, through our 75% managing member interest, the fee interest in our Cinemas 1,2,3 property in Manhattan. While we are evaluating the potential to redevelop this property as a mixed-use property, these endeavors have been deferred as we deal with the challenges posed by the COVID 19 pandemic. However, located on 3rd avenue, across from Bloomingdales on Manhattan’s Upper Eastside, this property is a prime long-term hold-for-development asset of our Company.
We own and operate three ETCs in Australia. Our revenues from these sites consist of rental income and other ancillary charges from our various tenants.
Located on 203,000 square feet of land in suburban Brisbane, Newmarket Village is currently comprised of approximately 102,000 square feet of net rentable area, including a Coles Supermarket and 43 other third-party tenants. We added a state-of-the-art eight-screen Reading Cinemas in December 2017.
Comprising 9.4-acres across two properties, Cannon Park City Center and Cannon Park Discount Center, Cannon Park was acquired in December 2015. Our multiplex cinema is the anchor tenant for Cannon Park City Center, which features nine third-party F&B and retail tenants.
The Belmont Common
Anchored by our 10-screen Reading Cinemas and five F&B or third-party tenants, The Belmont Common is located in Perth, Australia, and is currently comprised of 103,000 square feet of land and 15,000 square feet of net rentable area.
Located in the heart of Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city – our Courtenay Central ETC is comprised, on a consolidated basis through various subsidiaries, of 161,000 square feet of land situated (i) proximate to the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (attracting over 1.5 million visitors annually, pre-COVID), and (ii) across the street from the site of the future Takina, Wellington Convention and Exhibition Center (wcec.co.nz), the capital’s first premium conference and exhibition space, which is due to be completed in 2023. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, construction for this major public project is on track with plans including the creation of a public concourse linking through to Wakefield Street. When it is completed, not only will it be a major generator of foot traffic in the area, but its presence (together with the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum) will provide our property with the potential for unhindered view lines over- looking Wellington Harbor.
As previously reported, damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake necessitated demolition of our nine-story parking garage at the site, and unrelated seismic issues caused us to close major portions of the existing cinema and retail structure in early 2019. Wellington continues to be rated as one of the top cities in the world in which to live, and we continue to believe that the Courtenay Central site is located in one of the most vibrant and growing commercial and entertainment precinct areas of Wellington. In 2019, UNESCO named Wellington as a UNESCO Creative City of Film. In 2021, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Wellington as the fourth “Coolest Little Capital in the World”. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate team had developed a comprehensive plan featuring a variety of uses to complement and build upon the “destination quality” of the Courtenay Central location. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, our real estate team is continuing to work with our consultants, potential tenants, and city representatives to advance our redevelopment plans for this property.
Our real estate holdings are described in further detail in Item 2 – Properties. Our real estate developments are described in Item 7 – Recent Developments.
A summary discussion of our view as to the competitive aspects of the markets where we own real estate properties is as follows:
We believe that the COVID effect, while significant in 2020 and 2021, will not survive in the long-term as the human need for interaction will outweigh the reduced COVID post-vaccine risks. To meet this need for human interaction, we expect that U.S. retail real estate owners will continue to reuse the space vacated by anchor retailers to offer a variety of entertainment options and ultimately enhance the customer experience.
Demand for office space may decline in the near term as corporations adapt to employees’ “work-life balance” and leverage technology to automate tasks. However, our office space offering in the United States is limited. The available space in our Culver City office building is now completely leased. Our 44 Union Square office space is not generic in nature, given its Union Square location, its boutique size and brandability. The retail portion of our 44 Union Square property is now fully leased to a national retailer.
Australia and New Zealand
Over the past few years, there has been a noted stabilization in real estate market activity resulting in some increases to commercial and retail property values in Australia and to a lesser extent in New Zealand. Both countries have relatively stable economies with varying degrees of economic growth that are mostly influenced by global trends. Also, we have noted that our Australian and New Zealand developed properties have had consistent growth in rentals and values, despite the COVID effects. This is in part a product of the fact that our tenancies have focused on entertainment services (cinemas, food and beverage) and essentials (such as groceries and pharmacies), which has to some extent insulated us from internet competition. We remain optimistic that our Australian and New Zealand holdings will continue to provide value and cash flows to our operations.
BUSINESS MIX AND FOREIGN CURRENCY IMPACT
At December 31, 2021, the book value of our assets was $687.7 million, and our consolidated stockholders’ book equity was $105.1 million. Calculated based on book value, $316.2 million, or 46% of our assets, relate to our cinema exhibition activities and $257.2 million, or 37%, of our assets, relate to our real estate activities.
For additional segment financial information, please see Part II, Item 8 – Financial Statements and Supplementary Data—Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements-- Note 1 – Description of Business and Segment Reporting.
We have diversified our assets among three countries: the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Based on book value, at December 31, 2021, we had approximately 49% of our assets in the United States, 40% in Australia and 11% in New Zealand compared to 49%, 39%, and 12%, respectively, at the end of 2020. This shift in the ratio is principally due to the monetization of certain real estate assets, the launch of our Reading Cinemas in Jindalee, Millers Junction and Traralgon in Australia, and currency fluctuations.
We have worked to maintain a balance both between our cinema and real estate assets and between our U.S. and our Australian and New Zealand assets. In 2021, we invested approximately $8.0 million in our U.S. assets: $3.4 million for the development of our real estate assets (principally for the construction of our 44 Union Square property) and $4.6 million for the improvements of our cinema assets (principally the renovations of our cinemas at Kahala and Kapolei, and upgrades of certain other cinemas). We invested approximately $5.6 million for the development of our cinema assets (principally the fit-out and launch of our Millers Junction (Victoria) and Traralgon (Victoria) cinemas). We invested approximately $0.2 million in our New Zealand assets, all of which was used for the development of real estate assets (principally on the predevelopment of our Courtenay Central asset).
At December 31, 2021, we had cash and cash equivalents of $83.3 million, which are treated as corporate assets. Our cash included $10.9 million denominated in U.S. dollars, $49.5 million (AU$68.1 million) in Australian dollars, and $22.8 million (NZ$33.4 million) in New Zealand dollars. We had total worldwide non-current assets of $587.3 million, distributed as follows: $313.4 million in the United States, $221.1 million (AU$362.1 million) in Australia and $52.8 million (NZ$77.1 million) in New Zealand. We had no unused capacity of available corporate credit facilities at December 31, 2021.
For 2021, our gross revenues in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand were $61.8 million, $64.7 million, and $12.6 million, respectively, compared to $25.7 million, $31.3 million, and $5.8 million for 2020. All three countries posted revenue increases in 2021 as a result of fewer mandated closures in 2021 due to the wide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
As shown in the chart set forth in the International Business Risks section, exchange rates for the currencies of these jurisdictions have varied, sometimes materially. These ratios naturally have an impact on our revenues and asset values, which are reported in USD. Notwithstanding these fluctuations, we continue to believe that, over the long term, operating in Australia and New Zealand is a prudent diversification of risk. Australia has been identified by the United Nations to be among the Top 10 countries in the World in terms of natural resources per person. Deutsche Bank has twice named Wellington the best place in the world to live. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has twice rated Australia as the best place to live and work in the world. In our view, the economies of Australia and New Zealand are stable economies, and their lifestyles support our entertainment/lifestyle focus.
HUMAN CAPITAL RESOURCES
Our Company employs experienced, diverse, and creative employees as they are among our best assets and are critical for our continued success. As of December 31, 2021, we had approximately (i) 89 executive/administrative and 8 real estate employees who were primarily full-time and (ii) 20 live theatre and 1,908 cinema employees worldwide who were predominantly part-time/casual employees. A small number of our cinema employees in New Zealand are union members, as are our projectionists in Hawaii. None of our Australian-based employees or other employees are subject to union contracts. Overall, we are of the view that the existence of these collective bargaining agreements does not materially increase our costs of labor or our ability to compete.
We offer our employees a competitive benefits package. In the U.S., we offer a 401(k)-retirement savings plan (our “401(k) Plan”) that allows eligible U.S. employees to defer a portion of their compensation, within limits prescribed by the Internal Revenue Code, on a pre- and post-tax basis through contributions to the plan. We match contributions made by participants in our 401(k) Plan up to a specified percentage, and these matching contributions are fully vested as of the date on which the contributions are made. Currently, matching has been deferred as allowed by our 401(k)-plan due to COVID-19. For our employees in Australia and New Zealand, we offer superannuation plans in line with the requirements as they pertain to each government. We believe that providing a vehicle for retirement savings through our 401(k) Plan or superannuation plan, and making fully vested matching contributions in the U.S., in accordance with our compensation policies, adds to the overall desirability of our employee compensation package and further incentivizes our employees.
We have adopted a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (the “Code of Conduct”) designed to help our Directors and employees resolve ethical issues. Our Code of Conduct applies to all Directors and employees and is posted on our website. Our Board has established a means for employees to report a violation or suspected violation of the Code of Conduct anonymously. In addition, we have adopted an “Amended and Restated Whistleblower Policy and Procedures,” which is also posted on our website, and establishes a process by which employees may anonymously disclose to our Principal Compliance Officer alleged fraud or violations of accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters. We are firm supporters of equal rights and diversity, and have accordingly adopted the Anti-Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Policy posted on our website.
Our Green Initiatives.
We strive to do our part in the fight against climate change.
In our U.S. theaters we are looking at transitioning to paper straws and bamboo biodegradable cutlery in the immediate future. We provide recycle bins at all of our theaters. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we completed a variety of energy enhancements, including the installation of (i) LED Lighting retrofits to lower KWH Usage and reduce our energy consumption across all the theatres, (ii) modern and smart EMS systems at various locations, to efficiently control the current HVAC systems, and (iii) replacement HVAC package units to improve our carbon footprint. We have also done extensive research and analysis, but not yet implemented a project to install renewable energy, such as Solar Systems on the roofs of select cinema locations.
Australia and New Zealand
In our theaters in Australia and New Zealand, we are (i) using commercially compostable bamboo takeaway cutlery nationally, (ii) using commercially compostable paper straws (which are individually wrapped in paper to ensure we are COVID safe), (iii) using commercially compostable soft drink cold cups, coffee cups, popcorn boxes, takeaway pizza boxes and takeaway clamshell hot food boxes. We have achieved our 2021 goal to source only commercially compostable packaging, we expect all AU/NZ locations in Q2 2022 to be 100% converted to the new environmentally friendly stock. At our Burwood cinema in Australia, we are separating waste into three waste streams (compostable material/general waste/recyclable). At our Belmont ETC in Australia, we have installed Solar Panels to minimize our reliance on non-renewable energies.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Our statements in this annual report, including the documents incorporated herein by reference, contain a variety of forward-looking statements as defined by the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as: "may," "will," "expect," "believe," "intend," "future," and "anticipate" and similar references to future periods. Examples of forward-looking statements include, among others, statements we make regarding the closures and reopening of our cinemas and theatres, including our expectations regarding renovations and addition of cinemas; our expectations regarding the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on a person’s desire for social interaction our expected operating results, including the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and our ultimate return to pre-pandemic type results; our expectations regarding the recovery and future of the cinema exhibition industry, including the strength of movies anticipated for release in the future; our expectations regarding people returning to our theatres and continuing to use discretionary funds on entertainment outside of the home; our expectations regarding retail real estate owner’s use of vacant anchor spaces; our expectations regarding the impact of streaming and mobile video services on the cinema exhibition industry; our belief regarding the attractiveness of 44 Union Square to potential tenants and ability to lease space on acceptable terms; our expectations regarding the timing of the completions our renovation projects, our expectations regarding credit facility covenant compliance and our ability to continue to obtain necessary covenant waivers; and our expectations of our liquidity and capital requirements and the allocation of funds.
Forward-looking statements are neither historical facts nor assurances of future performance. Instead, they are based only on our current beliefs, expectations and assumptions regarding the future of our business, future plans and strategies, projections, anticipated events and trends, the economy and other future conditions. Because forward-looking statements relate to the future, they are subject to inherent uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict and many of which are outside of our control. Our actual results and financial condition may differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements. Therefore, you should not rely on any of these forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause our actual results and financial condition to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, among others, the following:
with respect to our cinema and live theatre operations:
the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the adverse effects on our anticipated cinema operations should there be further closings or restrictions mandated as a result of other variants;
the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants on our Company’s results from operations, liquidity, cash flows, financial condition, and access to credit markets;
the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants on short-term and/or long-term entertainment, leisure and discretionary spending habits and practices of our patrons;
the decrease in attendance at our cinemas and theatres due to (i) continued health and safety concerns, (ii) a change in consumer behavior in favor of alternative forms of entertainment, or (iii) additional regulatory requirements limiting our seating capacity;
reduction in operating margins (or negative operating margins) due to the implementation of social distancing and other health and safety protocols;
potentially uninsurable liability exposure to customers and staff should they become (or allege that they have become) infected with COVID-19 while at one of our facilities;
unwillingness of employees to report to work due to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or to otherwise conduct work under any revised work environment protocols;
the adverse impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to have on the national and global macroeconomic environment;
competition from cinema operators who have successfully used debtor laws to reduce their debt and/or rent exposure;
the uncertainty as to the scope and extent of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic;
the disruptions or reductions in the utilization of entertainment, shopping, and hospitality venues, as well as in our operations, due to pandemics, epidemics, widespread health emergencies, or outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, or to changing consumer tastes and habits;
the number and attractiveness to moviegoers of the films released in future periods, and potential changes in release dates for motion pictures;
the lack of availability of films in the short- or long-term as a result of (i) major film distributors releasing scheduled films on alternative channels or (ii) disruptions of film production;
the amount of money spent by film distributors to promote their motion pictures;
the licensing fees and terms required by film distributors from motion picture exhibitors in order to exhibit their films;
the comparative attractiveness of motion pictures as a source of entertainment and willingness and/or ability of consumers (i) to spend their dollars on entertainment and (ii) to spend their entertainment dollars on movies in an outside-the-home environment;
the extent to which we encounter competition from other cinema exhibitors, from other sources of outside-the-home entertainment, and from inside-the-home entertainment options, such as “home cinemas” and competitive film product distribution technology, such as, streaming, cable, satellite broadcast, video on demand platforms, and Blu-ray/DVD rentals and sales;
our ability to continue to obtain, to the extent needed, waivers or other financial accommodations from our lenders and landlords;
the impact of major movies being released directly to one of the multitudes of streaming services available;
the impact of certain competitors’ subscription or advance pay programs;
the failure of our new initiatives to gain significant customer acceptance and use or to generate meaningful profits;
the cost and impact of improvements to our cinemas, such as improved seating, enhanced F&B offerings, and other improvements;
the ability to negotiate favorable rent abatement, deferral and repayment terms with our landlords (which may include lenders who have foreclosed on the collateral held by our prior landlords);
disruptions during cinema improvements;
in the U.S., the impact of the termination and phase-out of the so called “Paramount Decree;”
the risk of damage and/or disruption of cinema businesses from earthquakes as certain of our operations are in geologically active areas;
the impact of protests, demonstrations, and civil unrest on, among other things, government policy, consumer willingness to go to the movies, and the spread of COVID-19; and
labor shortages and increased labor costs related to such shortages and to increasingly costly labor laws and regulations applicable to part time non-exempt workers.
with respect to our real estate development and operation activities:
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants may continue to affect many of our tenants at our real estate operations in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, their ability to pay rent, and to stay in business;
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants on our construction projects and on our ability to open construction sites and to secure needed labor and materials;
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants on real estate valuations in major urban centers, such as New York;
uncertainty as to governmental responses to COVID-19;
the rental rates and capitalization rates applicable to the markets in which we operate and the quality of properties that we own;
the ability to negotiate and execute lease agreements with material tenants;
the extent to which we can obtain on a timely basis the various land use approvals and entitlements needed to develop our properties;
the risks and uncertainties associated with real estate development;
the availability and cost of labor and materials;
the ability to obtain all permits to construct improvements;
the ability to finance improvements;
the disruptions to our business from construction and/or renovations;
the possibility of construction delays, work stoppage, and material shortage;
competition for development sites and tenants;
environmental remediation issues;
the extent to which our cinemas can continue to serve as an anchor tenant that will, in turn, be influenced by the same factors as will influence generally the results of our cinema operations;
the increased depreciation and amortization expense as construction projects transition to leased real property;
the ability to negotiate and execute joint venture opportunities and relationships;
the risk of damage and/or disruption of real estate businesses from earthquakes as certain of our operations are in geologically active areas;
the disruptions or reductions in the utilization of entertainment, shopping and hospitality venues, as well as in our operations, due to pandemics, epidemics, widespread health emergencies, or outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, or to changing consumer tastes and habits; and
the impact of protests, demonstrations, and civil unrest on government policy, consumer willingness to visit shopping centers, and the spread of COVID-19, among other things.
with respect to our operations generally as an international company involved in both the development and operation of cinemas and the development and operation of real estate and previously engaged for many years in the railroad business in the United States:
our ability to renew, extend, renegotiate or replace our loans that mature in 2023 and beyond;
our ability to grow our Company and provide value to our stockholders;
our ongoing access to borrowed funds and capital and the interest that must be paid on that debt and the returns that must be paid on such capital, and our ability to borrow funds to help cover the cessation of cash flows we are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic;
our ability to reallocate funds among jurisdictions to meet short-term liquidity needs;
the relative values of the currency used in the countries in which we operate;
the impact that any discontinuance, modification or other reform of London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR), or the establishment of alternative reference rates, may have on our LIBOR-based debt instruments;
changes in government regulation, including by way of example, the costs resulting from the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley;
our labor relations and costs of labor (including future government requirements with respect to minimum wages, shift scheduling, the use of consultants, pension liabilities, disability insurance and health coverage, and vacations and leave);
our exposure from time to time to legal claims and to uninsurable risks, such as those related to our historic railroad operations, including potential environmental claims and health-related claims relating to alleged exposure to asbestos or other substances now or in the future recognized as being possible causes of cancer or other health related problems, and class actions and private attorney general wage and hour and/or safe workplace-based claims;
our exposure to cybersecurity risks, including misappropriation of customer information or other breaches of information security;
the impact of major outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19;
the availability of employees and/or their ability or willingness to conduct work under any revised work environment protocols;
the increased risks related to employee matters, including increased employment litigation and claims relating to terminations or furloughs caused by cinema and ETC closures;
our ability to generate significant cash flow from operations if our cinemas and/or ETCs continue to experience demand at levels significantly lower than historical levels, which could lead to a substantial increase in indebtedness and negatively impact our ability to comply with the financial covenants, if applicable, in our debt agreements;
our ability to comply with credit facility covenants and our ability to obtain necessary covenant waivers and necessary credit facility amendments;
changes in future effective tax rates and the results of currently ongoing and future potential audits by taxing authorities having jurisdiction over our various companies;
inflationary pressures on labor and supplies, and supply chain disruptions;
changes in applicable accounting policies and practices;
changes in future effective tax rates and the results of currently ongoing and future potential audits by taxing authorities having jurisdiction over our various companies; and
the impact of the conflict events occurring in Easter Europe.
The above list is not necessarily exhaustive, as business is by definition unpredictable and risky, and subject to influence by numerous factors outside of our control, such as changes in government regulation or policy, competition, interest rates, supply, technological innovation, changes in consumer taste and fancy, weather, earthquakes, pandemics, such as COVID-19, and the extent to which consumers in our markets have the economic wherewithal to spend money on beyond-the-home entertainment. Refer to Item 1A - Risk Factors, as well as the risk factors set forth in any other filings made under the Securities Act of 1934, as amended, including any of our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, for more information.
Given the variety and unpredictability of the factors that will ultimately influence our businesses and our results of operation, no guarantees can be given that any of our forward-looking statements will ultimately prove to be correct. Actual results will undoubtedly vary and there is no guarantee as to how our securities will perform either when considered in isolation or when compared to other securities or investment opportunities.
Forward-looking statements made by us in this annual report are based only on information currently available to us and are current only as of the date of this 2021 Annual Report. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or to revise any of our forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable law. Accordingly, you should always note the date to which our forward-looking statements speak.
Additionally, certain of the presentations included in this annual report may contain “non-GAAP financial measures.” In such case, a reconciliation of this information to our GAAP financial statements will be made available in connection with such statements.
Item 1A – Risk Factors
Like any other investment, investing in our securities involves risk. Set forth below is a summary of various risk factors that you should consider in connection with your investment in our Company. This summary should be considered in the context of our overall Annual Report on Form 10-K.
BUSINESS RISK FACTORS
We are in the cinema exhibition and real estate businesses. We discuss separately the risks we believe to be material to our involvement in each of these segments. We have discussed separately the risks relating to the international nature of our business activities, our use of leverage, and our status as a controlled corporation. While we report the results of our live theatre operations as real estate operations – because we are principally in the business of renting space to producers rather than in producing plays ourselves – the cinema exhibition and live theatre businesses share certain risk factors and are, accordingly, discussed together.
Cinema Exhibition and Live Theatre Business Risk Factors
Our cinema and live theatre businesses are dependent upon attendance and, accordingly, are vulnerable to the adverse effects of the coronavirus outbreak which has resulted in government ordered closures, imposition of social distancing requirements, and changes in film release patterns, and may even after reopening adversely affect the public’s acceptance of auditorium-based entertainment. These situations may be repeated in the event of future pandemics. As demonstrated by the governmental and public response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that bring large numbers of unrelated people together in an enclosed environment are particularly vulnerable to business disruption in the face of contagious disease with life threatening potential. Not only may government authorities order closures or reduce operating capacities, but the public may feel uncomfortable attending our performances in the face of such an infectious disease risk. Our cinema business has high fixed costs (rent and increasing labor) and our revenue in this segment (ticket sales, food and beverage sales, screen advertising fees) is directly tied to our success at attracting customers to our venues.
We are dependent upon third parties to supply the entertainment product we need for our cinemas and live theatres to attract customers. We do not produce the films we show at our cinemas and, generally speaking, we do not produce the plays that are performed at our live theatres. Film distributors have no obligation to supply us with film and producers have no obligation to make use of our live theatres.
We face competition from other sources of entertainment and other entertainment delivery systems. Both our cinema and live theatre operations face competition from “in-home” and mobile device sources of entertainment. These include competition from network, cable and satellite television, and Video on Demand, internet streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO+, Peacock, and AmazonPrime, and social media or user generated internet programing such as, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Instagram, and Snapchat, video games and other sources of entertainment. The quality of “in-home” and mobile entertainment systems, as well as programming available on an in-home and mobile basis, has increased, while the cost to consumers of such systems (and such programming) has decreased in recent periods, and some consumers may prefer the security and/or convenience of an “in-home” or mobile entertainment experience to the more public and presentation-oriented experience offered by our cinemas and live theatres. Film distributors have been responding to these developments by, in some cases, decreasing or eliminating the period of time between cinema release and the date such product is made available to “in-home” or mobile forms of distribution. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many distributors have moved product onto their proprietary streaming service platforms or onto third party platforms (like Netflix) either in lieu of or simultaneously with a cinema release. Also, even before the recent pandemic, some traditional in-home and mobile distributors had begun the production of full-length movies, specifically for the purpose of direct or simultaneous release to the in-home and mobile markets. Cinemas will need to meet these competitive factors to continue to attract customers. This may require substantial capital outlays and increased labor expense, which exhibitors may not be able to fully pass on to their customers.
We also face competition from various other forms of “beyond-the-home” entertainment, including sporting events, concerts, restaurants, casinos, video game arcades, and nightclubs. Our cinemas also face competition from live theatres and vice versa.
Supply chain disruptions may negatively impact our operating results. We rely on certain suppliers for a number of our products, supplies and services. Shortages, delays, or interruptions in the availability of food and beverage items and other supplies to our theatres and restaurants may be caused by adverse weather conditions; natural disasters; governmental regulation; recalls; commodity availability; seasonality; public health crises or pandemics; labor issues or other operational disruptions; the inability of our suppliers to manage adverse business conditions, obtain credit or remain solvent; or other conditions beyond our control. Such shortages, delays or interruptions could adversely affect the availability, quality, and cost of the items we buy and the operations of our business. Supply chain risk could increase our costs and limit the availability of products that are critical to our operations. Since we have begun reopening our cinemas, we have, in some cases, experienced difficulties in maintaining a consistent supply, seen delays in production and deliveries, been required to identify alternative suppliers, and suspended sales regionally or entirely. We expect these issues to
continue for the foreseeable future and plan to minimize the impact by focusing on the supply of those items with the greatest impact on our sales and operations.
We operate in a highly competitive environment with many competitors who are significantly larger and may have significantly better access to films and to funds than we do. We are a comparatively small cinema operator and face competition from much larger exhibitors who are able to offer distributors more screens in more markets – including markets where they may be the exclusive exhibitor – than can we. This may adversely impact our access to films, which may adversely affect our revenue and profitability. These larger competitors may also enjoy (i) greater cash flow, which can be used to develop additional cinemas, including cinemas that may be competitive with our existing cinemas, (ii) better access to equity capital and debt, (iii) better visibility to landlords and real estate developers, (iv) for the sake of building volume, to operate cinemas with margins below our threshold for cinema acquisitions and/or development, and (v) better economies of scale. Access to reasonably priced funding is increasingly important as cinema operators need to upgrade their presentation, food and beverage in order to compete with in-home entertainment options.
In the case of our live theatres, we compete for shows not only with other “for-profit” Off-Broadway theatres, but also with “not-for-profit” operators and, increasingly, with Broadway theatres. We believe our live theatres are generally competitive with other Off-Broadway venues. However, due to the increased cost of staging live theatre productions, we are seeing an increasing tendency for plays that would historically have been staged in an Off-Broadway theatre moving directly to larger Broadway venues.
We are vulnerable to a variety of factors which are beyond our control.
Our cinema and live theatre businesses may be vulnerable to fears of terrorism and random shooter incidents which could cause customers to avoid public assembly venues. Events, such as terrorist attacks and random shooter incidents may discourage patrons from attending our cinemas. We believe that recent shooting incidents have resulted in material increases in insurance premiums for cinema operators.
Our cinema business may be vulnerable to natural disasters. Natural disasters, such as tropical storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes, have damaged and forced the temporary closure, and are likely in the future to similarly impact, our cinema operations. A material portion of our cinemas are located in seismically active areas, such as California, Hawaii and New Zealand.
We are not in an essential business and accordingly may be more subject to general economic conditions than some other businesses. Going to a movie or a play is a luxury, not a necessity. Furthermore, consumer demand for better and better amenities and food offerings have resulted in an increase of the cost of a night at the movies. Accordingly, a decline in the economy resulting in a decrease in discretionary income, or a perception of such a decline, may result in decreased discretionary spending, which could adversely affect our cinema and live theatre businesses. Adverse economic conditions can also affect the supply side of our business, as reduced liquidity can adversely affect the availability of funding for movies and plays. This is particularly true in the case of Off-Broadway plays, which are often times financed by high net worth individuals (or groups of such individuals) and that are very risky due to the absence of any ability to recoup investment in secondary markets like – cable, satellite or internet distribution.
We face competition from competitors offering food and beverage and luxury seating as an integral part of their cinema offerings. The number of our competitors offering an expanded food and beverage menu (including the sale of alcoholic beverages) and luxury seating, has continued to grow in recent periods. In addition, more competitors such as AMC are converting existing cinemas to provide such expanded menu offerings and in-theater dining options. The existence of such cinemas may alter traditional cinema selection practices of moviegoers, as they seek out cinemas with such expanded offerings as a preferred alternative to traditional cinemas. In order to compete with these new cinemas, the Company has been required to materially increase its capital expenditures to add such features to many of our cinemas and to take on additional and more highly trained (and, consequently, compensated) staff. Also, the conversion to luxury seating typically requires a material reduction in the number of seats that an auditorium can accommodate which may translate into fewer movie tickets being sold and the shutdown (or limitation of activities) during the time required to complete such modifications.
Our failure to obtain and maintain liquor licenses at any of our cinemas could adversely affect our ability to compete. Each of our cinemas offering alcoholic beverages, is subject to licensing and regulation. Typically, licenses must be renewed annually and may be revoked or suspended for cause at any time. Alcoholic beverage control regulations relate to numerous aspects of the daily operations of each cinema, including minimum age of patrons and employees, hours of operation, advertising, wholesale purchasing, inventory control and handling and storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. The failure to receive or retain a liquor license, or any other required permit or license, in a particular location, or to continue to qualify for, or renew licenses, could have a material adverse effect on our profitability, our ability to attract patrons, and our ability to obtain such a liquor license in other locations.
We may be subject to increased labor and benefits costs generally. Like most market actors, we are subject to inflationary pressures which have resulted in increased costs of goods and increased cost of film. Our labor costs more as post COVID-19 worker shortages continue, particularly in the minimum wage sector where we operate. Our cinemas are a major user of electricity, and utility costs are
also rising. Given competitive pressures and other forces adversely impacting movie attendances, it may not be possible to pass all or any material portion of these increased costs on to consumers. In addition, we are subject to a variety of changing laws governing such matters as minimum wages, access to benefits and paid or unpaid leave, working conditions and overtime under which minor violations can result in material liabilities. In California and New York, in particular, law firms have developed which advertise for plaintiffs and bring such cases on a class action, contingent fee basis, where typically between 25% and 40% of any recovery goes to the law firm. Moreover, given the statutory basis of such claims, insurance is not available to cover such exposure. In recent periods, legislatures have been active increasing minimum wages, mandating minimum hours or imposing notice and leave provisions that make it increasingly difficult to adjust staffing levels to accommodate fluctuating cinema attendance levels, all of which have resulted in increased operating costs as we work to maintain a high level of amenity to our customers.
Real Estate Development and Ownership Business Risks
Specific Risks Related to Our Real Estate Business.
Our real estate business is vulnerable to the effects from the coronavirus outbreak which has adversely impacted our retail tenants' operations and, in turn, resulted in an increase in tenant defaults and rent reductions. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure or reduced capacity of certain of our retail tenants. All of our ETCs are anchored by our cinemas, which suffered temporary closures and/or reductions in seating capacities during the COVID-19 Pandemic, thereby reducing foot traffic to our ETCs. In some cases, we have been compelled to provide our tenants with rent abatements or deferrals.
Competition from the Digital Economy may adversely impact our ability to lease and obtain reasonable rents for our properties. An increasing amount of shopping is being done online, a trend that has been given momentum by the stay-at-home admonitions and restrictions associated with our battle against the COVID virus. This has adversely impacted retail tenants (particularly those dealing in consumer goods), which may impact our ability to attract such retailers and to obtain rents at historic levels. This is a particular risk to us, given our high percentage of retail tenants. Also, initially motivated by the need to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are rethinking the scope and extent of the need for their office space. Some markets may have become overbuilt, which may complicate our ability to lease our properties, to obtain reasonable rents, and to finance future development.
Many of our Properties are located in areas prone to natural disasters. Many of our properties are located in areas subject to a risk of fires such as California and Australia; of hurricanes, tropical storms and/or flooding, such as Australia, California, Hawaii and New York, New Jersey; or earthquakes in New Zealand, Hawaii and California. The availability of insurance for natural disasters (particularly earthquake) may be limited.
Our entertainment properties may be more subject to access litigation than other properties. Substantially all our properties consist of, or include as a material component, entertainment venues. These facilities may attract more access-based litigation (for example, claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act) than other types of real estate.
We operate in a highly competitive environment in which we must compete against companies with much greater financial and human resources than we have. We have limited financial and human resources, compared to our principal real estate competitors. In recent periods, we have relied heavily on outside professionals in connection with our real estate development activities. Many of our competitors have significantly greater resources and may be able to achieve greater economies of scale than we can. Given our structure as a taxable corporation, our cost of capital is typically higher than other real estate investment vehicles such as real estate investment trusts.
Risks Related to the Real Estate Industry Generally
Our financial performance will be affected by risks associated with the real estate industry generally. Events and conditions generally applicable to developers, owners, and operators of real property will affect our performance as well. These include (i) changes in the national, regional and local economic climate, (ii) local conditions, such as an oversupply of, or a reduction in demand for, commercial space and/or entertainment-oriented properties, (iii) reduced attractiveness of our properties to tenants, (iv) the rental rates and capitalization rates applicable to the markets in which we operate and the quality of properties that we own, (v) competition from other properties, (vi) inability to collect rent from tenants, (vii) increased operating costs, including labor, materials, real estate taxes, insurance premiums, and utilities, (viii) costs of complying with changes in law and government regulations including those relating to access, energy conservation and environmental matters, (ix) the relative illiquidity of real estate investments, and (x) decreases in sources of both construction and long-term lending as traditional sources of such funding leave or reduce their commitments to real estate-based lending. In addition, periods of rising interest rates or declining demand for real estate (for example, due to competition from internet sellers the demand for brick and mortar retail spaces has declined and may continue to decline, and due to the increasing popularity of tele-commuting demand for traditional office space has likewise declined and may likewise continue to decline), or the public perception that any of these events may occur, could result in declining rents or increased lease defaults. Increasing cap rates can result in lower property values.
Illiquidity of real estate investments could impede our ability to respond to adverse changes in the performance of our properties. Real estate investments can be relatively illiquid and, therefore, tend to limit our ability to vary our portfolio promptly in response to changes in economic or other conditions. Many of our properties are either “special purpose” properties that could not be readily converted to general residential, retail or office use. In addition, certain significant expenditures associated with real estate investment, such as real estate taxes and maintenance costs, are generally not reduced when circumstances cause a reduction in income from the investment, and competitive factors may prevent the pass-through of such costs to tenants.
Real estate development involves a variety of risks.
Real estate development involves a variety of risks, including the following:
The identification and acquisition of suitable development properties. Competition for suitable development properties is intense. Our ability to identify and acquire development properties may be limited by our size and resources. Also, as we and our affiliates are considered to be “foreign owned” for purposes of certain Australian and New Zealand statutes, we have been in the past, and may in the future be, subject to regulations that are not applicable to other persons doing business in those countries.
The procurement of necessary land use entitlements for the project. This process can take many years, particularly if opposed by competing interests. Competitors and community groups (sometimes funded by such competitors) may object based on various factors, including, for example, impacts on density, parking, traffic, noise levels and the historic or architectural nature of the building being replaced. If they are unsuccessful at the local governmental level, they may seek recourse to the courts or other tribunals. This can delay projects and increase costs.
The construction of the project on time and on budget. Construction risks include the availability and cost of financing; the availability and costs of material and labor; the costs of dealing with unknown site conditions (including addressing pollution or environmental wastes deposited upon the property by prior owners); inclement weather conditions; and the ever-present potential for labor-related disruptions.
The leasing or sell-out of the project. Ultimately, there are risks involved in the leasing of a rental property or the sale of a condominium or built-for-sale property. For our ETCs, the extent to which our cinemas can continue to serve as an anchor tenant will be influenced by the same factors as will influence generally the results of our cinema operations. Leasing or sale can be influenced by economic factors that are neither known nor knowable at the commencement of the development process and by local, national, and even international economic conditions, both real and perceived.
The refinancing of completed properties. Properties are often developed using relatively short-term loans. Upon completion of the project, it may be necessary to find replacement financing for these loans. This process involves risk as to the availability of such permanent or other take-out financing, the interest rates, and the payment terms applicable to such financing, which may be adversely influenced by local, national, or international factors.
The ownership of properties involves risk. The ownership of properties involves risks, such as: (i) ongoing leasing and re-leasing risks, (ii) ongoing financing and re-financing risks, (iii) market risks as to the multiples offered by buyers of investment properties, (iv) risks related to the ongoing compliance with changing governmental regulation (including, without limitation, laws and regulations related to access, energy conservation and environmental matters), (v) relative illiquidity compared to some other types of assets, and (vi) susceptibility of assets to uninsurable risks, such as biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism, or risks that are subject to caps tied to the concentration of such assets in certain geographic areas, such as earthquakes. Furthermore, as our properties are typically developed around an entertainment use, the attractiveness of these properties to tenants, sources of finance and real estate investors will be influenced by market perceptions of the benefits and detriments of such entertainment-type properties.
We may be subject to liability under environmental laws and regulations. We own and operate cinemas and other properties within the U.S. and internationally, which may be subject to various foreign, federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment or human health. Such environmental laws and regulations include those that impose liability for the investigation and remediation of spills or releases of hazardous materials. We may incur such liability, including for any currently or formerly owned, leased or operated property, or for any site, to which we may have disposed, or arranged for the disposal of, hazardous materials or wastes. Certain of these laws and regulations may impose liability, including on a joint and several liability, which can result in a liable party being obliged to pay for greater than its share, regardless of fault or the legality of the original disposal. Environmental conditions relating to our properties or operations could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations and cash flows.
Legislative or regulatory initiatives related to global warming/climate change concerns may negatively impact our business. Recently, there has been an increasing focus and continuous debate on global climate change including increased attention from regulatory agencies and legislative bodies. This increased focus may lead to new initiatives directed at regulating an as yet unspecified array of environmental matters. Legislative, regulatory or other efforts in the U.S. to combat climate change could result in future increases in the cost of raw materials, taxes, transportation and utilities for our vendors and for us which would result in higher operating costs for the Company. Also, compliance by our cinemas and accompanying real estate with new and revised environmental, zoning, land-use or building codes, laws, rules or regulations, could have a material and adverse effect on our business.
However, we are unable to predict at this time, the potential effects, if any, that any future environmental initiatives may have on our business.
Changes in interest rates may increase our interest expense. Because a portion of our debt bears interest at variable rates, increases in interest rates could materially increase our interest expense. Based on our debt outstanding as of December 31, 2021, if interest rates were to increase by 1%, the corresponding increase in interest expense on our variable rate debt would decrease future earnings and cash flows by approximately $2.7 million per year. Potential future increases in interest rates may therefore negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations and reduce our access to the debt or equity capital markets.
Uncertainty relating to the likely phasing out of LIBOR may result in paying increased interest under our credit facilities. Some of our variable rate indebtedness uses LIBOR as a benchmark for establishing the rate. LIBOR is the subject of recent national, international and other regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. On July 27, 2017, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority announced that it intended to phase out LIBOR by the end of 2021. LIBOR is no longer used to price new loans, and existing finance structures which are based on LIBOR are expected to be transitioned by June 2023 when certain time-based LIBOR rates will no longer be published. These reforms and other pressures may cause LIBOR to disappear entirely or to perform differently than in the past. At this time, it is not possible to predict the effect that any discontinuance, modification or other reform of LIBOR or any other reference rate, or the establishment of alternative reference rates, may have on LIBOR, other benchmarks, or LIBOR-based debt instruments. However, the use of alternative reference rates or other reforms could cause the interest rates payable under our credit facilities to be substantially higher than we would otherwise have expected.
International Business Risks
Our Company transacts business in Australia and New Zealand and is subject to risks associated with changing foreign currency exchange rates. During the current year, the Australian dollar and New Zealand dollar strengthened against the U.S. dollar by 8.9% and 8.8%, respectively, compared to the prior year. Our international operations are subject to a variety of risks, including the following:
Currency Risk: while we report our earnings and net assets in U.S. dollars, substantial portions of our revenue and of our obligations are denominated in either Australian or New Zealand dollars. The value of these currencies can vary significantly compared to the U.S. dollar and compared to each other. We do not hedge the currency risk, but rather have relied upon the natural hedges that exist as a result of the fact that our film costs are typically fixed as a percentage of the box office, and our local operating costs and obligations are likewise typically denominated in local currencies. Set forth below is a chart of the exchange ratios between these three currencies since 1996:
In recent periods, we have repaid intercompany debt and used the proceeds to fund capital investment in the United States. Accordingly, our debt levels in Australia are higher than they would have been if funds had not been returned for such purposes. On a company wide basis, this means that a reduction in the relative strength of the U.S. dollar versus the Australian Dollar and/or the New Zealand dollar would effectively raise the overall cost of our borrowing and capital and make it more expensive to return funds from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. In 2021, we used a portion of the proceeds of certain asset monetizations to fund liquidity needs in the United States.
Risk of adverse government regulation: currently, we believe that relations between the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are good. However, no assurances can be given that these relationships will continue, and that Australia and New Zealand will not in the future seek to regulate more highly the business done by U.S. companies in their countries.
Risk of adverse labor relations: deterioration in labor relations could lead to an increased cost of labor (including future government requirements with respect to pension liabilities, disability insurance and health coverage, and vacations and leave).
Trade disputes and geopolitical instability outside of the U.S. may adversely impact the U.S. and global economies.
In 2021, global growth weakened, trade tensions heightened, and several emerging markets experienced significant downturns as macroeconomic and geopolitical developments weighed on market sentiments. Governmental policies of developed economies, such as the U.S., have a substantial effect on emerging markets, and the consequences of a trade war between two developed countries, like that of the U.S. and China, could further contribute to the adverse economic and political conditions of emerging and other developed economies. Additionally, North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, Chinese activities relative to the South China Sea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to be an ongoing security concern and worsening relations between the U.S. and North Korea, Russia and China continue to create a global security issue that may adversely affect international business and economic conditions. While it is difficult for us to predict the effect of such trade wars and heightened geopolitical and economic instability on our business, they could lead to currency devaluation, economic and political turmoil, market volatility, and a loss of consumer confidence in the broader U.S. economy.
Risks Associated with Certain Discontinued Operations
Certain of our subsidiaries were previously in industrial busin